Monday, March 24, 2014

The Blog Tour

You must know about this thing. Do you know about this thing? Okay, well there's this thing called the blog tour and it's been passed around from one blogging writer to another. Well from one writer to three others, actually (which kind of reminds me of the projections for how long it would take John Carpenter's The Thing to entirely infect the Earth's population). 



The idea is for writers to answer four questions about their work and habits. The man, the legend, Phill Barron was kind enough to nominate me for a turn - which puts me in pretty awesome company. Phill doesn't like John Carpenter's The Thing (I know!) but I don't hold that against him.

I'm sure you're already familiar with Phill's blog but if you aren't then check it out. His no bullshit perspective on writing and the filmmaking process is invaluable, and always a breath of fresh air. He's written a shedload of films what got made too.

So, on to the questions...

1) What am I working on? 

Um... Well, I've almost finished decorating my little boy's bedroom...

But seriously, without getting all self pitiful (been there, done that), I've struggled to keep a good work routine since my little boy was born. There's been a lot going on for us and it's hard to be in full time work with a family and still bash out the words if you get some free time. 

Yeah, I know. It's hard. Boo hoo. Anyway, he's a big lad of (nearly) four now and I've been determined that this year writing becomes a priority again. 

Trouble is I'm out of my preferred cycle and I don't really feel like I'm working on any one thing. There are a couple of spec scripts rotting in rewrite limbo which are in dire need of taking apart and fixing. One is a pilot which I love but fear I may have been sat on too long. The other is a horror feature set in Wales which (I think) has the potential to be awesome but is nowhere near there yet.

I'm brainstorming a couple of spec projects which I want to take to script in the next month or so. They're both in mediums I've not really tried before which is cool. I hope the clickety-clack frenzy of a draft zero will be the nitrous injection I need to kick my writing process back into gear. 


One is a radio comedy. I haven't written anything funny, (well, not deliberately funny) for years and (despite being a big fan of The Navy Lark, Hancock's Half Hour, Nebulous, Cabin Pressure, the works of Big Finish and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) I've never written anything for audio. Not ever. So I'm very bloody excited about that. I don't want to say anything about the other thing yet in case I break the magic, you know how fragile it can be. 

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I don't think I have "a" genre. I'll write just about anything, same as I will read, watch or listen to just about anything. I guess if I'd ever had great success in a genre that might have changed but, as it stands, so far so good!

So lets ignore the genre thing and just ask how does my work differ from others? Oh shit, let's not do that. That's even worse. 

As Ray Davies sang, "I'm not like everybody else". None of us are. What makes my work different is me. My experiences and perspectives. My hang ups and obsessions. My secrets and my fears.

And maybe an over-awareness of my place in the universe.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

To see if I can. To test myself. I don't like to stick to comfort zones in my work so if I'm choosing between ideas for a future project I'm more likely to go for the most difficult one because that's the experience that will teach me the most.

Does everyone do that?


4) How does my writing process work? 

First I find a successful writer, then I lure them to my stone altar... 

This feels a bit pretentious. My process is nothing special. It's a mixture of things I've read in "how to" books, the insights of other writers and what I've found works, or doesn't, for me personally.

Still, the question has been asked.

First there's The Idea. Unless I've just woken up one day and said something like "Hey, how come I never wrote a radio comedy?" in which case first, there's the format. Then, later, sometimes much later, there's The Idea. In either case The Idea will be hurriedly scribbled in Evernote or an actual physical notebook and left to it's own devices for a while. Some ideas don't get beyond this stage. Actually most ideas don't get beyond this stage but they're probably just rubbish. 

When an idea starts to actually look like a viable story then out comes the A4 notepad and I start brainstorming that sumbitch. At this point I'm most interested in the possibilities of the idea, whether it or something similar has been done before and whether it worked. Basically - is there any point writing this? If the idea were to explore the Cosa Nostra in New York City through the course of the twentieth century then I'm unlikely to think, "hey, I can do that better than The Godfather." Although, if there was an angle... 

Actually, I'm aware that a personal failing of mine is to be too ready to think my idea is similar to something that has been done. If I'm not careful I can let that kill an idea dead before I've really considered its potential. At the end of the day, especially with specs and Hollywood, no one else will care if it's been done before if it's good enough.  

After the storming of the brain comes a one pager. From there we go to some index cards or an electronic alternative. 

Once I know who's who and what's going to happen then I'll want get into Draft Zero when I should be nailing the treatment. This takes some self control. I'm not a meticulous planner by nature, I like to busk. I can be so eager to get started (this is the fun bit - I'm actually writing!) that I go off half-cocked. So it's about nailing the story without going off the boil. I don't know that I've perfected this. I mentioned those lumbering rewrites, didn't I?

Once that draft is done then it goes on ice for as long as possible (my one NaNoWriMo effort still hasn't been defrosted). 

I'll read it straight through first to see if it's any good and make sure it's not just a hundred pages of "I am a fish". If it's salvageable then I start making notes. Usually reading off the screen and making notes on an A4 pad. 

It's pretty much rinse and repeat after that until I start to feel I could stomach the thought of someone else reading it. The first reader is always my wife. She's an English teacher by profession and damned good at spotting issues, from typos to plot problems. She'll always have notes and then it's back to work I go. 

After a few more drafts, if I'm getting to be generally happy with the script, I'll start looking at specifics like dialogue only, sometimes looking at the dialogue of individual characters in isolation. Any dead pages? Any unnecessary characters or scenes? Are the action lines as sparse as Poundland on Boxing Day?  If it's a comedy I'll count and categorise the laughs. 

Alright, that's enough of that. This is all pretty obvious, isn't it? You'd be far better off reading what Phill or Piers wrote for this anyway.

Now it's time for my taggees. I'll let them introduce themselves...  
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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor, screenwriter and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy at www.bang2write.com. Lucy’s script editing credits include the British Thrillers ASSASSIN , DEVIATION and ACT OF GRACE and she is the author of WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS and THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY. A trained teacher, Lucy is Head Reader for The London Screenwriters' Festival's screenwriting competitions and schemes. As a script reader, Lucy has worked for funding initiatives and screen agencies, as well as literary agents and individual producers, directors and writers, new to professional. Lucy can be found on Twitter (www.twitter.com/Bang2write), plus her writing group “Bang2writers” is on Facebook (www.facebook.com/bang2writers) and at LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Bang2writers-4650546.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Follow the White Rabbit


In which I ramble on about The Matrix and Hugo Weaving's teeth. No one can be told what the The Matrix is but there will be spoilers here...

Watched The Matrix the other night, for the first time in years. Well it was New Year's Eve, actually. Way to ring in the new year.

We all loved The Matrix, didn't we? It was different and gritty and science fictiony in a way we hadn't seen done well for a while. Then, a few years later, there were a couple of sequels that somewhat tarnished the original. Actually I've never seen the third one, that's why I wanted to rewatch the original. They're running them on ITV or somewhere. I fancied some of that. 

I really enjoyed most of it. For one thing I've always really liked Keanu Reeves, ever since seeing him in a film called Permanent Record (which I loved!). 


Anyway, The Matrix. I love the atmosphere of it. Future noir. Rain. Lightning. Blade Runner. Decay. Shabby hotels. Derelict buildings. Inside the matrix everything is grey and it rains every night. In the real world everyone wears sackcloth tops and eats something that looks like... Well, it don't look too tasty, let's just say. 

There's a rich sprinkling of philosophy, history and big ideas through the film. They turn out to be little more than a garnish, but they are there and they do provoke thought. 

I love the little details. The window cleaner's squeaky sponge when Neo is summoned to his bosses office for being late.

It's plain that the Wachowskis have a very special vision. 


Laurence Fishbourne, Joe Pantaliano and Hugo Weaving are just on fire. Terrific performances. Cypher's treachery especially is played with total conviction. I find it quite affecting that the character would rather live a fantasy as a battery than fight for survival in the real world. 

The idea of an insane artificial intelligence combined with Weaving's rabidly toothy performance as Agent Smith is top dollar. 

And Jebus but that Ericsson phone looked sexy with it's little swishy mouthpiece keypad cover thing.



I remember having the impression that Switch swapped genders between reality and the matrix but I didn't get that when rewatching. Maybe I was reading a bit too much into that (Nice idea though, with the self image avatars). 

So I was really having a great time. And then they start with the guns. Guns and guns and guns. 

They establish quite quickly that if you die in the matrix you die in the real world. So when Neo and Trinity start shooting the shit out of security guards and policemen those are real humans dying, yes? 'Cos only the agents are artificial. Right? 

We already know Neo and Trinity can hack the matrix. They know kung fu. Why do they need to massacre these guys? They could probably just run past them. No one but an agent gives them reason to pause. 

Is it for the spectacle? I don't remember how much I liked it in 1999 but it got kind of boring the other night. 

After that though it's all good to the end. The rescue of Neo and his battle with Agent Smith is dynamite. And I still love that closing Neo-does-Clark-Kent bit. 

I've spent over ten years thinking that The Matrix was a full on classic SF film but on rewatching I find it's just pretty damn good fun. Glossy but lacking in real depth. I am disappointed. 


I was never that fussed on number two, Monica Bellucci cameo aside (why didn't they get Vincent Cassel to play her husband????), so I hardly know whether to bother rewatching that now.  

I'd be interested to hear anyone else's opinions on the film. Have I lost the plot? Am I being too harsh? Clue me in.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Resolution

Happy New Year!


I've been wanting to blog for a while now. I've rather fallen out of love with Twitter, I don't know why really, and I guess I've been missing the experience of venting my brain into cyberspace. I still think Twitter is A Good Thing, and really important, but I've been struggling to get back into tweeting, or even reading tweets. 

And anyway it's time the blog got some love. I miss that old blog camaraderie. So few people seem to comment on blogs now. It would be really cool to have some interaction on the here so if you read something you like, or something you hate, or whatever, then drop a comment please and we'll pass the time o'day. 

I'm going to aim to spew up a new post at least once a week. Might be about writing, or telly, or what I had for breakfast (cheese on toast). I really just want to get into a routine. It's a part of a 2014 relaunch strategy I've come up with because it's not just the blog that's been idle for a year. 

I've quite unintentionally taken a little over a year off from writing. I didn't want or mean to but there have been so many things going on in our lives that I've found it impossible to get any coherent work done. There was half a short story in February. Some script pitch busking in the last few months. Otherwise nowt.

So what were the distractions? Many and varied. Minor health issues, commitments, dayjob stuff, poor time management, moving house, and sometimes (for me at least) I think the less free time you have the less effectively you use it. I didn't find time to write but I have managed to complete sixty odd percent of GTA V. *ashamed face*

As a result of this lack of material I'm even missing Red Planet cos I have nothing ready that they've not already seen. That's a wake up call. I bloody love Red Planet. (in the wildly unlikely event that you don't know what I'm on about then go here or listen to this (you still have six days to enter your first ten pages)). 

Anyway, phase one (or January) of my 2014 Relaunch plan involves me coming out of the month having sat at my desk and worked at least three times every week. A modest ambition, surely? I'll keep you posted. 

Has anyone else got a January target they'd like to share with both my readers?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Greetings for Christmas


Wishing you a Merry Christmas, a restful break and an incomparable 2014!

xx